Solomon Airlines is working closely with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Ministry of Aviation and Communications and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development to reach a transport solution for passengers travelling to Gizo after May 26.
Aviation authorities last week, announced the planned closure of Nusatupe airstrip in Gizo from May 26, for three months, to allow contractors to upgrade Nusatupe into an all weather airstrip.
Gizo is Solomon Airlines’ busiest domestic port and from close of business May 26, all flights to the Western Province will end at Munda.
Solomon Airlines General Manager Operations and Commercial Gus Kraus says stakeholders have been working closely together to ensure that safe and reliable transport is available to take passengers who land in Munda onto Gizo via boat transfers although the airline said that boat transfers are not their prime business but they are still discussing issues with all stakeholders.
“What we want is a seamless transfer of passengers from the plane in Munda and onto the boat for our Gizo passengers. The same applies for passengers coming from Gizo to board the flight at Munda.”
A meeting of stakeholders made up of Solomon Airlines, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, on Tuesday agreed to finalise the details of the boat charter operators.
This followed meetings in Munda, earlier this week between Solomon Airlines, the Tourism Ministry and a number of boat operators, on transporting passengers between Munda and Gizo.
“Our priority is to ensure that the boat service we engage is regular and on time and that the operators we use must have insurance as well as safety equipment. We also want a back-up engine in case of a breakdown if at all possible.”
Kraus reiterated that all passengers who have prepaid tickets to travel to Gizo after May 26 will be taken care of by Solomon Airlines. Those who pay for tickets after the schedule was changed to only terminate in Munda from May 26 will have to make their own arrangement with boat operators to travel between Munda and Gizo.
“This situation affects not only Solomon Airlines’ passengers but the tourism industry as well which will impact on the national economy. I’m glad to see discussions being on-going to come up with a solution that will not inconvenience passengers and tourists alike.”
“This is not the passengers’ or the tourists’ problem. It’s a problem that all the stakeholders need to come together to resolve.”
Kraus thanked the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the Aviation and Communication Ministry and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development for their commitment and corporation to work together to finding a solution.
He further added that the upgrade of Nusatupe would ensure that from August, flights would no longer be subject to weather delays or a potentially unsafe runway.